Taking care of your freediving wetsuit
Getting ready to dip into 13 degree C water.

Taking care of your freediving wetsuit

The first wetsuit I ever used for freediving was a surfing wetsuit. The finest cheapest I could find. It came from Decathlon in France, and had a 5.5/4.5 mm longjohn and a 5.5/4.5 mm jacket. Combined I had 11 mm of neoprene on the core, and 4.5 mm of neoprene on my limbs. That wetsuit lasted forever. It was also about as flexible as a wooden board, and very heavy.

Diving in Vancouver in Winter, the water was probably 8 degrees C or less. This is me in my surf wetsuit, with scuba fins. Photo by Todd Kabaluk
Diving in Vancouver in Winter, the water was probably 8 degrees C or less. This is me in my surf wetsuit, with scuba fins. Photo by Todd Kabaluk

My next wetsuit was an actual freediving wetsuit, a 3mm speardiver from the freedive store. I still have it, although the original 3 mm neoprene now is about 1.5 – 2 mm thick. The wet suit has an unlined inside, commonly referred to as ‘open cell’, meaning that there is no lining on the rubber. Rubber against skin. That whole story of having a thin layer of water to help you stay warm? Total nonsense. If you have less water and/or water flow in your suit you are going to stay much warmer. Compared to my surf suit, diving felt like a trip to heaven and back. I then got a suit from Oceanos in Greece. Not the best suit I ever bought. It was a cheap custom suit, but the fit was not perfect. After a year of diving, the original 5 mm has compressed to about 3 mm.

I now dive with a suit from Azure Passion (review here). It is 8 mm thick, and so far (after 6 months of diving) it is still 8 mm. I take a lot more care with this suit, because it feels like a second skin, and, I really should stop buying a new suit every 8-12 months.

freediving wetsuit
Getting ready to dip into 12 degrees C water with an unlined wetsuit. Photo by Rick Waines

Simple tricks to make your freediving wetsuit last

  • Make sure the neoprene does not compress

Store your suit on a shelf without folds (My pants are folded once, and of my top the sleeves are folded at the shoulders). Do not put anything on your suit. I repeat. Do not put anything on your suit. Not your divelight, not your mask, and not your diving weights. Especially not your diving weights. If neoprene compresses it will lose its insulation. Not a big deal if you dive with a 1.5 mm in the tropics, big deal if you dive in BC in water that can be below 5 °C.

I stuffed my first suits into the smallest bag I could stuff them into. It was handy, especially when I lived in my van for 8 months. But it definitely was not good for the neoprene. Now I use a huge bag for my suits so that they have plenty of space. The quality of the neoprene is another factor. Yamomoto and Heiwa neoprene are currently the best available to my knowledge.

  • Make sure the neoprene does not stretch

You can keep a wetsuit on a hanger but some neoprenes tend to stretch if you do this.. This doesn’t happen instantly but it sure does happen. If it does you have created space for water to slosh around and this will keep you cold. This is part of the reason I keep mine lying on a shelf.

  • Take care of the small nicks and cuts as soon as you can

If you have an unlined wetsuit, don’t breathe at it! Chances are you’ll create a hole. These suits are fragile. Even a fingernail can create a small cut. That small cut will turn into a tear very soon. Keep neoprene cement in your diving bag (put 2 ziplocks around it in case it leaks) so that you can mend your suit on the go. Make sure you can put your suit on and off without having your fingertips against the rubber.




Jaap is a geologist by trade and a freediver by passion. Jaap wrote the book Longer and Deeper in 2018. His book teaches how to train for freediving and spearfishing on land.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Luca M.

    Nice article! Good point on leaving weights, masks or other wetsuits stacked on each other. I never thought of it that way! Thanks!

    1. Jaap

      Thanks Luca. It is something that you don’t notice the effects of unless you have a completely unlined suit. Even just folding the suit will create a permanent crease/dent in the neoprene. If that happens in too many areas a suit won’t keep you as warm. My guess is that it happens as easily to lined suits but you won’t see it (it seems to have happened to mine anyway…).


    And let’s not forget to prevent the suit from being inside out in the sunlight: UV kills!

  3. Jaap

    Good addition, you’re totally right!

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